The Future of Mass Effect: What I Hope to See

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For all the complaints and nit-picks I have for Mass Effect 3‘s ending, I can wholeheartedly say that I still do love the series! It’s still one of my top favorite games to play and I still recommend it to friends to check out. Despite how I feel about the company and their stance surrounding the controversial ending, I still think BioWare created perhaps the best trilogy I ever had the pleasure to get involved with. And while I’m on the subject, it’s come to my attention that my most recent blog had gained some attention from Bioware themselves.

Imagine my surprise!

In response I say: thanks for reading! And you can relax this time. I’m not going to spend this time blasting Mass Effect 3’s ending again, but rather, I want to talk about some of the possible paths that the series can take now that Commander Shepard’s story is finished. Granted, I’m not completely against the concept of Shepard coming back *wink wink*

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Expansion on Species

Mass Effect has always been about exploring the vastness of space, discovering new cultures and finding undiscovered secrets of the universe. Casey Hudson has said that the universe of Mass Effect is just that, a universe. A universe with untold secrets and adventures that have yet to be touched upon.

The existence of the Reapers doesn’t have to be the only newly discovered species of the series. What about the Leviathans? These ancient race once dominated the galaxy way before the Reapers. It was their arrogance that ultimately led to the creation of the Reapers as well as the cycle of harvesting organic life. The Reapers ultimately betrayed their creators thus forcing them to retreat into hiding for hundreds of millions of years where they were content to watch the universe through artifacts and taking no part in the Reaper’s harvest.

The Leviathan of Dis

The Leviathan of Dis

The Leviathan DLC certainly raised a lot of questions that could easily be implemented into the next Mass Effect. For example, would the Leviathan be considered the new threat now that the Reapers are gone? Keeping in mind that the Reapers were originally the Leviathans servants that consistently rebelled against them; what’s to say that the Leviathans wouldn’t consider doing the process all over again? The Leviathans still see themselves as the apex race of the galaxy, and with the Reaper threat having been eliminated, this could give the remaining Leviathans the green light to rise out of their watery hiding place and make an attempt to return to their place of power. They have already demonstrated that power in how they are able to indoctrinate people for long periods of time, turn enemy soldiers over to their side, and have the capacity to direct faster-than-light communication via a method that virtually unknown or seen to modern science. Should they decide to pick up where they left before the Reapers knocked them down a peg, it could lead up to another war. Which would be really bad timing when majority of the universe is just coming from fighting the Reapers.

That is, of course, if the Leviathans are written as the antagonist. Another route to take is the ever popular First Contact approach. The Leviathans could be hailed as bringers of a new era of advancement to the galactic community. They could aid in the repair and reconstruction of multiple planets following the Reaper War. Of course this is a stretch for even me to wrap my head around, so I’m kinda reaching here. It’s hard for me to imagine the Leviathans as anything else other than the new big baddie seeing as how DLC sort of established that the race has no other interest beside divide and conquer.

Either way, it would a shame to let this species, especially one that has such story potential and previous game involvement, to be overlooked. There are so many avenues of intrigue that BioWare can take with this character. And with a completely new game with a new cast of characters, they have just the platform to do it.

If you really wanted to expand on the universe, you could open up the species roster by a few races. Species such as the Yahg are perfect for expansion. Last we saw of them, the species was isolated and the home planet declared off-limits by the Citadel Council. In Mass Effect 3, the salarians were secretly planning on uplifting the yahg similarly on how they uplifted the krogan to use them to further their own means. Now, was anybody else like me and thinking that this was a really bad idea on the salarian’s part? Because we know how well uplifting the krogan went the first time! But whose to say that salarians weren’t successful in some means?

ME3_Yahg

Much like with what I said about the Leviathans, this is one of those species characters that deserves further exploration. We have already seen the virtuosity and aggression the Yahg has in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, and if they are given a chance to expand across the galaxy, we could be looking at a war-driven species that could cause a lot of headaches for some people. Or perhaps, make them a potential squad-mate?

Variety in Missions

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Everybody loves variety!

The most important thing to remember when making a video game, particularly a game with an established history of fast paced combat, is to keep fresh and to keep it interactive. That said, Mass Effect 2 was my favorite game of the series mainly because of the different routes to took in various missions. The monotony of just running and shooting was occasionally broken up with moments of undercover stealth missions, solo missions, vehicle missions, detective work, rescue missions, hostage negotiations, planetary missions and so on.  I loved this because it gave me so much more to do other than running around shooting things, which is not a bad thing of course. It’s just more fun running around shooting when you’re doing while driving through on-coming space traffic on Illium with mercenaries hot on your tail.

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Who didn’t love this moment?!

It was something straight out of Grand Theft Auto (sort of), driving past cars at top speed while trying to avoid on-coming trucks and buildings. This was a short chase scene in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC but it’s probably the one that fans love the most! When it comes to video games, it’s important to not let the action become old or repetitive too early. This is especially important in role playing games. It can’t all be about the shooting. In an RPG, there needs to a balance between the action and the side missions. In Mass Effect 2, that balance was pretty evened out with the amount of things you could do beside the main story plot. The player needs to fill connected to the world in which he is about of.  Players like to be knee-deep in a game and be included in even the slightest involvement of the most mundane things.

For future Mass Effect games, BioWare needs to mixed things up if they really want to expand the universe. Mix together the undercover stealth missions with rescue missions, or maybe have more solo missions. Vehicle missions that require more planetary exploration, both on foot and in a vehicle. Have more missions with a stronger and heavier impact on morality choices. The possibilities are endless!

The Ripple Affect and Consequences

Okay, I know I promised to stir clear about talking about Mass Effect 3’s ending. And you can relax; I’m still keeping my promise. But while I’m not going to talk about the ending, I’m more going to focus on what happens beyond Mass Effect 3.

What happens after the Reaper War is over?

As of now, BioWare has not formally said whether or not the next Mass Effect game is going to be either a prequel to the series or a sequel. Speculation has been leaning towards a prequel, and that’s fine. I have no quarrel with that idea. That said, however, I think it would be a fair estimate that majority of fans are really clamoring for a continuation of Mass Effect 3.

Let’s face it. A cinematic slide show can only go so far.

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One of my biggest concerns with the endings was whether or not BioWare had written themselves into a corner. Picking up from where Shepard’s story ended might be difficult considering the multiple of different outcomes that the endings introduced that BioWare would have to take into consideration. What if the player chose to cure the genophage? What if they chose to save the Geth but wiped out the Quarians? What if they choose the Control ending? Trying to juggle so many factors could a pain in the neck, but not impossible.

I understand BioWare’s desire to start fresh in the new Mass Effect. And as I said, we don’t yet know whether or not the next Mass Effect game will be a sequel at all. Bioware has adamantly said that the next Mass Effect should not be called Mass Effect 4 as it probably would not have anything to do with the previous three games at all. I find that a little hard to believe.  Yes, create a new story with new characters in this familiar universe, but to not have it connect with anything from the previous series? Am I missing something here? Because that doesn’t make much sense to me.

I suppose this is why many have speculated that next game will be a prequel since it’s perhaps the safest and easiest route to take. Still, it seems like a total step backwards when considering the interesting position the endings have left the Mass Effect universe in. It’d be a completely missed opportunity not to further explore the repercussions of  curing the genophage or what the world would be like due to the merging of Synthetics and Organics. Or what if  the position of galactic power has changed due to the Reaper War? Remember that towards the end of Mass Effect 3, it was discovered that the Asari had been collecting and hording Prothetan knowledge, thus giving their race a powerful edge of advancement. A revelation such as this could huge repercussions for the Asari in future games.

Now, as much as I loathe and despise the endings, I’ve gotten to the point that if I still want to enjoy the series that I love so much, I’m going to have to learn to live with endings in some way. That’s why I feel that BioWare should really consider continuing Mass Effect with all the multitude of different factors and consequences.  There is a way to tackle the issue of all the possible story elements.  It won’t be easy by any means. I’m not saying it will be. But BioWare has proven in the past that they know how to handle things such as implementing different player choices and them affect the game in same or other. I’m pretty sure they can figure out a way of having Shepard’s choices of the previous games and have them somehow have lasting effect on not just the Mass Effect world, but also having an effect on the new protagonist.

And while we’re on the subject…

The Return of Shepard?

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Okay, before I mention anything else, let me get this out of the way and say that the  appeal of the new Mass Effect having a completely new hero isn’t entirely lost on me.

As I already said, I’m reaching that point where I want to enjoy the Mass Effect games again, rather than have the series sitting on my shelf where I glare at them with disdain. I still hate the endings with a passion and I think I will forever resort to head-canon on how Shepard’s ended rather than accept what BioWare handed us. It’s this weird quagmire I’m find myself in that more I think about the Mass Effect series and where it could possibly go after Shepard. Sure, I don’t doubt that there tons of avenues that BioWare could possibly take. They certainly have their hearts set on starting fresh with a completely new story. And to a certain degree, stepping back into the world I enjoy so much and into the shoes of a new character does get my gamer girl excitement levels soaring. I’m ready to move on…and then I’m not.

It’s not going to be an easy transition. There can be only one Commander Shepard. I can already hear the clamor of the general public now, screaming at me that it’s time to move on. And I get it! I truly do! But it’s hard to do when the very last image we have of Commander Shepard (those of us who chose the Destroy ending anyway) is that 30 second breathe scene of him/her laying in a pile of rubble!

To this day, I have argued with so many people on the significance of this scene. Is that even Commander Shepard? How could he/she survive? Maybe it’s the new character for the next game?  Is he/she alive? Maybe that’s their last breath before he/she dies? I have pulled my hair out trying to dissect  this scene apart for months and am I’m nowhere closer to understanding it than I was when I first saw it. I’m positive now that that was BioWare’s intention all along. To keep everyone guessing with something as ambiguous as this. If so, good job BioWare!

On the other hand, what about the fans who don’t particularly like ambiguous endings? Hear me out because I’m trying really hard here to avoid the giant elephant in the room argument of the endings. I wouldn’t even be talking about this if BioWare hadn’t planted the parasite of hope into my brain with this posting here:

Awsv4bfCEAEZJzm.jpg largeSimply suggesting that there’s a chance of Shepard returning is enough to cause me some sleepless nights. Why even have that breathe scene in the final moments in the game if there is no intention to anything with it? Or better yet, why would BioWare even take the time to point it out in the forums? To simply appease the masses? Perhaps. But it’s this notion here is pretty much that last shred of hope that I have in squeeze just one more drop of Shepard’s story before I can truly walk away. I’ve had a lot of time to think about how bringing back Shepard would even be possible, and after some brainstorming, I can safely say:

IT CAN BE DONE!

Now when I say that, I mean that there are ways in bringing back Shepard, but only for those who chose the Destroy ending. For those who chose either Control or Synthesis, great! If that was your choice and you’re happy with it, that’s okay. What I’m proposing isn’t an alternative ending per say. Consider it more of an optional DLC marketed solely to the audience who chose Destroy.

I’m well-aware that the next game should focus more on the new protagonist, as it should. I don’t want to take anything away that. But BioWare left so much open for possibilities with that 30 second scene!  What if there was a DLC that centers around rumors that Commander Shepard could still be alive? This would provide an excellent opportunity to bring in some fan favorites and also great way of “passing the torch” onto the newest Mass Effect hero! Fans have come up with some pretty well throughout ideas on how this idea could be handled.

For example, this awesome fan-made trailer made by eji313 on Youtube:

Final Thoughts

All in all there are a lot things I hope to see in coming Mass Effect games. I’m still a hardcore fan, despite how I feel about the controversy and the company. BioWare has taken a pretty hard hit in the last year and I think I safe to say that when it comes time for their next game to be released, fans and critics alike are going to expecting a lot. Whatever BioWare has planned for the Mass Effect series, let’s hope it’s as engaging as Commander Shepard’s journey was.

Oh, and if I’m allowed to make one last request as an obsessed Whovian whose itching for a Mass Effect/Doctor Who crossover…is there any possible way we can make this a reality in the near future? Just saying?

Trying to touch the Tardis by TimpossibleXXI

Trying to touch the Tardis by TimpossibleXXI

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One comment on “The Future of Mass Effect: What I Hope to See

  1. Nice article. I like it.

    I would like o have a prequel, partially for the reasons you mentioned. I just hope they don’t take a cannon ending and set us up with it. I know it might be difficult to integrate all of the 3 endings in a new game, but there are surely possibilities to explain the missing of special differences (for example in terms of “Where are the Reapers?” (because synthesis and control has them, destroy not) or “Why don’t the races look like synthetic-organic hybrids?” (in terms of synthesis).

    Despite the fact that I do not like the endings (Destroy being idiotic because you destroy EDI and the Geth too, meaning you have not learned a single thing in the end (because synthetics and organics trying to kill each other was the cause for the creation of the Reapers and by doing it another time you prove your cycle is not different and it doesn’t matter that you chose to make piece with the geth and the quarians, Legions sacrifice was for nothing and meaning you do not respect synthetic life as much as organic), synthesis being the most far-fetched thing I have ever seen in Mass Effect, because actually not even in the Mass Effect universe something like this is possible anymore (no science in the fiction of this ending) ( best ending for me would have been “deactivate reapers” Since the “Starchild”/VI is in control of them they should be able to either deactivate them or tell them that their purpose was fulfilled (since they found a cycle in which synthetics and organics didn’t kill each other in the end), but hey, I have to accept the endings, right?).

    Anyway, like I said, despite of the fact that I do not like the endings there are a lot of possibilities Bioware could build on with the next game. In gameplay and story.

    Here is a part of what I’d like to see:

    I’d like to have more freedom in the skill system, also regarding the class system.

    At the moment every class has its abilities and the only thing you can do is level up.

    I’d like to have more of a mix of the system from ME1 (but less complicated) and the system of Mass Effect 3 (but more free and variable) in the next game.

    In this regard I’d like the actual “class” to be a little more general, meaning the class will give you one ability slot (example: ability “Infiltrator”) that increases the properties which are supported by the class, in case of the Infiltrator this could include tech damage and weapon damage as well as shiel strenght (and regeneration).

    The other abilities you have should be more choosable.
    Also, ammo powers should be separatd from abilities, since they are no actual abilities but more a upgrade you can attatch to your weapon.

    Let me explain this. I’ll take the class infiltrator as an example an explain the meaning of the different “class slots”.

    Class: Infiltrator

    Class Slot 1: Infiltrator => Increases Class specific properties such as tech and weapons damage and shields. This slot is an obligatory slot, meaning if you are an infiltrator you HAVE to have this slot
    Class Slot 2: Soldier Slot => This Slot contains an ability evolving around weapons and their usage. Either being a “Sniper Expert” or a ” Shotgun Expert” slot, “concussive shot” or “Adrenaline Rush” (or Frag grenade), giving you advanced damage for the weapon of YOUR choosing or an ability to boost your skill as a soldier. This slot is obligatory, however you can choose WHICH soldier ability you’d like to use here
    Class Slot 3: Tech Slot => This slot contain an ability of the tech class, such as “Incinerate”, “Sabortage” or “Overload”. This is also an obligatory slot, you can however chose which tech ability you want

    Free Slot 1: This slot can be chosen to yopur liking. Unlocking some (more powerful) abilities will cost you more skill points than unlocking others. You can choose every ability here, Biotic, Tech or Soldier
    Free Slot 2: This slot unlocks at a higher level. It can be chosen from every category as well.

    Bonus Class Slot: This slot unlocks with mastery of the class.It can be choses (in case of the Infiltrator) from either Soldier or Tech.
    Bonus (Squatmate) Slot: Unlocks when completing missions for Squatmates (this slot doesn’t HAVE to be in, but I figured it’s a good idea to take it over from ME2/3)

    With 2 Free slots the class system focuses less on what class you are (which is often carried over into the next game an may have advantages or disadvantages there) and more on YOUR decision to combine certain powers.
    The “Free Slot 2” is no “must have” for me, it’s enough if there is 1 free slot we can choose. However I figured the “Class 1 Slot” and “Class 2 Slot” makes it less the developers decision and more the players decision to actually CHOOSE what you want to have as abvilitis.
    An example is the Infiltrator and the Vanguard here. I always wanted to be a Vanguard, but I chose the infiltrator. Why? Because the Vanguard can’t use sniper rifles. With my ability combination system you could combinme biotic abilities with sniper rifle skills, meaning you can get rid of enemies coming to close (pull, slam, etc) and snipe enemies from afar.
    A whole new playstyle not yet possible in ME (except by choosing the “slam” ability as squatmate bonus power when being an infiltrator).

    This gives you the freedom to actually chose what abilities you’d like to have while still mainly supporting you class abilities (by making the Class Slot 1 – 3).

    Don’t get me wrong, it is okay how is it at the moment, but regarding all your squatmates which have their “special classes” not being one or the other and having different abilities you do not have with the same class, it would be nice to have the option to chose which kind of Infiltarot or Vanguard ot Sentinel or Adept, Soldier or Engineer you are. The abilities which are mainly supported are those of your class and you have (only) 1 slot to choose free, the others are all associated with your class. However, actually choosing which abilities of your class/category you want to choose would be a step forward in RPG elements.

    An example would be:

    Class: Infiltrator

    Class Slot 1: Infiltrator
    Class Slot 2: Sniper Rifle Expertise
    Class Slot 3: Sabotage

    Free Slot 1: Dark Channel

    Bonus Class Slot: Overload
    Bonus Squatmate Slot: Slam

    With the old abilities being still there and new abilties surely coming this kind of ability setup would be pretty nice to give us some freedom without drawing the focus too far away from the class system.

    If I am a tech and a soldier (Infiltrator) I do not want to have a bad tech ability (combat drone, Cryo Blas, Cryo Ammo) in my abilties, this is just an abiltiy I will never boost and therefore, in my books a loss. My main character is MY construct, giving me the ability to choos what he wants to learn within his class category is a freedom I’d like to have.

    What I like to add here is the ability to equip special ammo types (disruptor, cryo, etc.)

    Those abilties or rather ammo types should be independend from the skill tree.

    I agree that special classes should be able to equip special ammo, but that should be more handled like a temporary upgrade, meaning you can BUY new skill levels of those ammo types with normal money and meaning they are independent from the skill tree. (still choosable in the ability menu during fights of course, but more handled like the weapons you choose in the ability screen, a normal ammo type)

    I agree on the voices on the internet talking about making the game more RPG again. I would really like to have less auto dialogue than in ME3.

    Don’t get me wrong, the fighting system was awesome, keep that!!

    But in the dialogues I want to have more to say.

    In Mass Effect 3 you talked to someone and chose 1 option, then they would talk for half a minute (a lot of lines and a back and forth between the two characters) and THEN you could choose the next option. Most conversations only had about 2 or 3 moments to choose an answer IF you were not investigating about something.

    So I’d like to be able to say more this time around. The dialogue was less interesting, less immerive for me because I just watched what the characters were saying and was seldomly asked for personal input. Mass Effect 2 made that A LOT better and I hope it really returns to this system again.

    Also, the usage of Renegade or Paragon options was a little scarce in ME3, I’d like more of those P/R dialogue options and also more of the P/R action/event moments. Also more along the lines of ME2 would be great.

    The sytem could also use an overworking now, in my opinion at least. P/R was never about bad or good. In ME2 and ME3 I often saw that the Renegade option just featured actions which are less associated with being harsh or being brutal to someone but more about cruelty sometimes. In other cases Renegade or Paragon were not really clear to separate from each other since it was a matter of perspective.

    I do not know how you should do it, however a new syste, might be better.

    I don’t say you should just throw it all over board. But I’m mainly an out-of-the-situation player. Meaning I will be paragon when people deserve my understanding and empathy and I will be renegade if people piss me off or deserve a harsh treatment.

    One thing I’d like cahnged for exampel is the interaction with the crew. I don’T like there being Paragon or Renegade points for interacting with the crew. Paragon/Renegae OPTIONS, yes, but I shouldn’t be rated for how I treat my crew, because about 90% of the people will be mostly friendly to their crew, eventually giving them Paragon points even if they are actually renegade in the rest of the game.

    Also, the punishment for not being one or the other (Paragon or Renegade) is the disability to choose specific Paragon or Renegade dialogue options. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that in a few cases. But there are too many cases where I can’T choose either or, simply because of the fact that I have 1 or 2 Paragon/Renegade points to less, because I chose the other instead in a situation. If you punish someone for being in-between in a game which is so morally affected and gives you so much freedom everywhere it is just not right in my eyes.
    I should be able to respond based on situation. Of course, if I have abourt 75% Paragon and 10% Renegade I shouldn’t be able to choose the Renegade option, but I should be able to choose it if both are about the same niveau, no matter how many points I have gathered so far.

    The simple reason is that in a game where you can take on missions the order you want (mostly) you should not be required to have an ultra-high score in one mission, but not required to have it in another, because it forces you to choose the mission which requires the high P/R score later and therefore removes a part of the freedom you have.

    There should be an option to choose different races next time (Human, Quarian, Turian, Krogan, Salarian, Asari). Most voices can be the same actor here. Human, Salarian, Turian, Krogan and even Quarian can be the same voice, Salarian might have to be altered a littel with a voice manipulation program. Asari and the Female Human (and female other races) can be the same actor as well.
    The background should be simple (like it was in ME 1, for example “Spacer”, “Sole Survivor” or “Earthborn”, “Warhero”, etc.)

    It would be nice to have some race-specific dialogue, though of course not too much.

    The setting should be in the future (post-ME3), close enough to remember the events, but far enough to ensure that the different endings have not TOO MUCH of an impact. (Please not cannon)

    The threat shouldn’t be something as big as the reapers, but maybe something less big in this game.

    You should travel to mostly unknown parts of the Milky Way.

    In addition another galaxy should be available.(maybe only the borders of it). The plot could evolve around cross-galaxy travel and how it is discovered and things go wrong, maybe evene at the edge of a war against the other galaxy (main charater has to stop it). An accident happens when testing the new “cross-galaxy-drive”, team thrown in other galaxy, people die, something like this. Something along the lines of “First Contact War” but just some similarities (like the discovery of a new travel method and the threat of a war because of an incident)

    The character shouldn’t be a spectre at start, but maybe a military captain of a new founded fleet (cross-species) or division.

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